Prometheus. 2012. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by Damon Lindelof & Jon Spaihts.
Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, & Charlize Theron.
20th Century Fox
Rated 14A. 124 minutes.
Adventure / Mystery / Sci-Fi
Ridley Scott is a treasure. He is one of the greatest gifts to the science fiction world in film throughout the course of moving pictures. Outside of sci-fi, his direction is still masterful, as is his enthusiasm and inventiveness as a storyteller. But starting with Alien, then moving next to an equally groundbreaking motion picture with Blade Runner, within the first five years as a feature film director he announced himself as a visionary. Only recently returning to the genre in which he so quickly rose to prominence (though I can’t forget his amazing debut The Duellists which garnered him considerable attention), Scott decided to revisit one of his greatest pieces of work by elaborating on its concepts, themes, and overall world.
Prometheus did not do as well as one might expect. So many are intent on considering this a trash follow-up/semi-prequel to a better movie. And many are right: Alien is the better film. But you can’t discredit this bit of sci-fi for not trying, and as far as I’m concerned you also can’t insist this is a bad movie. It is not. This is a fascinating piece of mysterious science fiction, which uses the talents of Scott to tell us the origins of the story we’ve already seen in 1979’s Alien and lay out the map of an even broader tale. Including the influence of biblical scripture, the theories of pseudoscientists, even some creepy horror literature, Prometheus aims at the larger questions of life’s origins and where exactly we come from. Furthermore, Scott asks deeper questions about belief, faith, how we see God and finally what exactly were his intentions.
Maybe this film doesn’t succeed with everyone. For me, it was a cinematic experience of a lifetime. I don’t often go to theatre. As a film lover, I prefer a quieter environment where I don’t have to contend with noisy moviegoers. Yet Prometheus had me in line buying tickets twice in two weeks. Suffice to say I’m a huge fan.
Ultimately, Scott’s film sets up what eventually comes out in 1979’s Alien. Although it isn’t right before those events. Rather it’s the beginning of the story which brings us to that classic science fiction-horror. But more than that Scott is exploring our own origins, too. While the Xenomorphs are an engineered species, as are humans in Prometheus. In that sense there’s so many things going on. The creation of both Xenomorphs and humans brings them into parallel with one another— while the aliens wreak havoc in space down the line, humans were brought into being only to eventually wreak their own havoc and cause destruction on Earth.
At the base of the story is a relation between man and God. You could probably say Prometheus is a story of faith, religion, belief. All disguised under a thick layer of science fiction. The religious elements of Prometheus are buried all throughout its screenplay. For instance, they head to LV-223 (in the same system as LV-426 from the original Alien), which is more than likely a reference to Leviticus 22:3. This passage from the Bible relates to the Prometheus crew touching the “holy gifts” or “holy offerings” of the Engineers, and essentially overstepping boundaries: “Say to them: ‘For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD.”
A major reason why I love the religious elements here is due to the fact Scott, essentially, holds up the belief in God and the belief in extraterrestrial life as being two sides of the same coin. I am without belief, but never understood how people who believe in aliens(et cetera) can possibly look down on and mock those with religious conviction. It’s the exact same concept.
“It‘s what I choose to believe“
Not going to waste time on telling you why other reviews got it wrong. I’d rather discuss all the elements I found impressive, unique, as well as those moments which allude to the 1979 Alien in an exciting way.
When I saw this movie in theatre, the opening scene hooked me immediately. Before Scott even mentioned it during interviews I knew that Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods? was a huge influence on this film’s story. The Engineers are essentially Ancient Astronauts, a theory for which Däniken is widely regarded as the originator (for those who haven’t yet read the book— even sceptics will be thrown by one or two things in there). But just simply the cave markings, all the work Holloway and Shaw (Marshall-Green/Rapace) do tracking down the same drawing spread out over various locations across the world, it is absolutely like many of the cave paintings, murals (et cetera) which people now claim in contemporary reassessments as being evidence of extraterrestrial life, or possibly presence of these ancient astronauts. Overall, imagining these Engineers that Holloway and Shaw have dreamed up, then later found, is similar to the ideas of Däniken in that some otherworldly beings created us in their image, thereby replacing God. Along with Däniken there is most certainly a brief, fleeting influence of H.P. Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness, as both the Lovecraft tale and this film share similar science fiction/adventure angles. The fact remains Däniken is clearly the most impressive influence on Scott and the writers.
One thing I love is that the film doesn’t rely totally on elements from the original movie to make it work. Yes, obviously Scott is setting up the elements that relate to that film. But above anything else he tries to create a broader universe in which the series as a whole can sit. Whereas some seemed to be disappointed by this, I dig that Prometheus has its own feel. Instead of fighting against some completely inhuman beast, the crew in this movie are forced to confront their literal makers, these partly human entities which came before us.
And in that we’re given the Man v God scenario.
This leads us into John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein territory, working our way back through literary history. Milton began what Shelley continued, which is the examination of an absent creator— the belief that God has created us and all life, but left us and the world to our own devices, not some big moral king sitting atop the clouds judging and handing down punishments. At the same time, this type of creator is no less abusive, as in this scenario he leaves his creations without any guidance or help. Like God casting out Satan, like Victor Frankenstein shunning his monster and casting him into the cruel outside world, the Engineers of Prometheus created man, then decided man ought to be annihilated for one reason or another, prompting the creation of the “weapons of mass destruction” found on LV-223 in the terraforming structure (and as we know the Xenomoprhs that effectively act as such weapons possibly used to wipe out/clean up a planet).
What’s most exciting is that this movie is the start of a couple others, including the already announced/dated/titled Alien: Covenant, so here’s to hoping Scott and his writers will continue exploring the absent creator, the implications and effects, as well as bringing us closer to the original film, aligning the mythologies as one cohesive unit.
Something that angers me is the fact some fans are intent on misreading things in the film as meant to be directly related to Scott’s original 1979 classic. He has stated on many occasions this is not a direct prequel— Prometheus is like the first of several steps before the story meets up with Alien. But then there are moments so many supposed fans of the original don’t even appear to be watching, or seeing correctly. Such as Fifield (Sean Harris) becoming a mutated version of himself. He’s not a zombie, and it wasn’t the acid blood that did that to him. If you didn’t notice, he does a faceplant in the black liquid, which of course infects his blood and turns him into a half-superhuman. Case closed.
Second of all, when Millburn (Rafe Spall) sees the space snake and gets close to it, leading to him getting attacked, so many act as if that’s the ultimate stupid screenplay move possible for the character. Sorry, but have you ever seen any wildlife experts that are uber enthusiastic about animals? Steve Irwin often ran in and pet down dangerous animals because he loved them, he wasn’t afraid and if he was it was a respect for them. So why is it THAT hard to believe Millburn was overwhelmed by the thought of actually discovering an entirely new species, on a new planet they just found, that he went and got too close? It isn’t, only for people who need to fit everything into a silly little box of predetermined emotion and character actions.
These are some of the points of contention for others I wanted to address because they’re absolutely foolish to me. Oh, and if you really feel so adamant Millburn’s actions are written poorly and unbelievable, have a look at the deleted scenes— one in particular has direct relevance to this scene that’s kept in, then you can see for yourself the intention behind Millburn doing what he does.
If you don’t understand why David (Fassbender) gave Holloway a drop of the black goop, if you can’t grasp very easy plot points – which are explained, as opposed to what other critics might have written in their reviews – then perhaps don’t blame Ridley Scott, Damon Lindelof, or anyone else for what you consider plotholes, or whatever. I’m sick and tired of people not paying attention to movies. And that’s what it boils down to. Even Quentin Tarantino says some dumb shit from time to time like he did about this movie. Now if you just don’t dig it, that’s fine. I don’t mind people having different opinions. Just don’t base them on things that don’t make sense.
For me, this is a magical bit of science fiction that Scott uses to start opening up the world he began in 1979 with Alien. No it is not perfect, but it’s still almost flawless to me. I love every last bit and Scott so obviously has heart in the project. Enjoy it, or don’t.